Ethernity, an Ethereum NFT marketplace focused on drops from celebrities and athletes, today announced that it has raised $20 million in seed funding and established Ethernal Labs.
The new umbrella company will see Ethernity expand out its team to help celebrities and brands enter the NFT space, as well as expand into play-to-earn gaming and metaverse initiatives.
The $20 million seed round includes prominent backers, including Riot Games Head of Creative and Franchise Development Thomas Vu, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin. Fanatics already has its own sports-centric NFT division, Candy Digital, which already makes MLB and NASCAR team NFTs and is expanding into entertainment.
Additional backers in Ethernity’s raise include Morningstar Ventures, Ripple, Algorand, Polygon Studios, and Kenetic. Ethernity previously raised a strategic funding round of $2.8 million in March 2021.
The platform already has deals with an array of notable athletes and celebrities too, including retired NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, soccer star Lionel Messi, and the estates of Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee, and James Dean.
Ethernity founder and CEO Nick Rose suggested to Decrypt that many more IP acquisition announcements are incoming.
What are Ethernal Labs and Ethernity?
Rose said that he and his team formed Ethernal Labs to amass talent within a studio focused on various initiatives—from producing NFT drops and devising play-to-earn game economies to developing cross-chain technologies.
He said that Ethernal Labs will have “crazy smart people building things,” as the team targets an array of potential opportunities in Web3.
Thomas Vu—who served as executive producer on the hit game League of Legends and the recent Netflix animated adaptation, Arcane—still works at Riot Games, but is also advising Ethernal Labs on the creation of a play-to-earn role-playing game.
An Ethernal Labs representative clarified that Vu has no official title or designation at the firm, but added that the game is being developed “under the guidance” of the veteran Riot Games producer. Additionally, Vu’s investment in the round was personal and not linked to Riot.
“He’s been providing very valuable advice and overseeing what we are doing exactly, and making sure we’re on the right track with our product offerings and product building,” said Rose of Vu’s contributions.
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The play-to-earn project will first launch its characters this spring in the form of NFT profile pictures, said Rose, who cited the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club as an example. Ethernal Labs will then develop the game’s economy and play mechanics thereafter amid a gradual rollout over the span of two to three years.
Ethernal Labs has a couple of other decentralized apps (dapps) on the horizon, as well. EyeCandy, a decentralized, auction-centric NFT marketplace for single-edition artwork, will launch in Q2 this year.
Meanwhile, a fan token platform called Fanable is anticipated to roll out in Q3. Rose likened Fanable to sports fan token platform Socios, but with more of a focus on letting individual athletes and creators cultivate their own respective fan communities via crypto tokens. That’s a strategy employed by existing platforms such as Rally and Roll.
As the name hints, Ethernity is currently based in the Ethereum ecosystem, and mints its NFTs on the Ethereum mainnet as well as Polygon’s sidechain scaling solution. Ethernity also has an ERN ERC-20 token used for staking rewards and for buying select NFT collectibles.
Rose sees Ethernity’s future across multiple blockchain platforms, however. He said that additional layer-2 solutions will come alongside Polygon, and that they’re building “platform agnostic” technology that will let users mint an NFT on one of potentially several different blockchains—and mentioned Solana as a potential example.
Ethernity is also working on platform features like NFT lending and staking, and plans to make moves towards the coming metaverse alongside its free-to-play game development. In other words, Ethernity has no shortage of plans. “We’re working on a lot of revolutionary ideas and concepts,” said Rose.
Now they have the funds to recruit additional talent and try to turn these plans into a reality.